Anthrax guitarist and founding member Scott Ian has become a man who wears many hats. As most artists tend to explore different realms of the spectrum, some awaken new, unfound talents while others flop. For the 1980s thrash-metal musician, becoming an author, television interviewer, spoken word performer and storyteller seems to fit well into his visionary potentiality.
In coordination with his live spoken word performances titled Speaking Words that have started in the last few years, Ian's releasing a longer and demonstrative tour DVD called Swearing Words in Glasgow that encompasses a performance in Scotland. The DVD is set to release on Nov. 13 via Megaforce Records. Ian's autobiography I'm the Man: The Story of That Guy from Anthrax, which was released on Oct. 14, holds similar stories told in the live performances, but in an elongated narrative.
Amid the autobiography and DVD releases lies Anthrax's final show of 2014–according to Ian–this weekend during Slipknot's Knotfest at San Manuel Amphitheater in San Bernardino. According to Ian, the remainder of the year will be focused on writing the new Anthrax album.
Ian spoke with the OC Weekly on his new DVD, his autobiography, Knotfest and his experience interviewing Ozzy Osbourne for Rock Show while he was dressed as Gene Simmons.
OC Weekly (Rachael Mattice): You recently had an event in L.A. where you performed your Speaking Words set at Largo, a pretty notorious comedy venue. The DVD is a longer version of your sets you've been doing, but what else can viewers expect to see on your DVD?
Scott Ian: My set varies from night-to-night. The DVD is longer than the set I did in L.A. because I kept the set to two hours. The length depends on what stories I tell, how long the Q&A goes and on the crowd.
It's different to me than a rock show because it's just me up there making decisions. I don't have to worry about getting the message across to the other side of the stage when I want to add something or cut something from the set. The show is more about a bunch of stories that are also captured on the DVD, where as my book is an actual proper narrative. The book is much more in depth.
I'm interested to know that if you don't necessarily have a lot of influences with standup comedy or spoken word, how did you fall into doing something like this?
They say that things aren't going to just fall into your lap and you have to go out there and get them, but this did fall into my lap, like you said. I was not out there actively looking for it.
I got an offer to do a show in London from a promoter who was doing a series called Rockstars Say the Funniest Things, and they asked me to do one. I said yes based on the fact that I knew I would have five months before I had to do it. I had time to prepare. It was something I had enough curiosity about and enough time to prepare for. It was also because I was going to be in London anyway because Anthrax was going to be starting a tour the next night over there. It all just worked out in a perfect storm to be able to go and do it.
I did no preparation in the five months even though I intended to and be professional about it. I just got on stage and winged it. It went so well and I had so much fun doing it that I did a whole tour of the UK, in Australia and on the east coast in the States.
The Speaking Words performances reflect your personal stories, which don't have to necessarily attract just metal fans. Your shows have been at venues where notable standup comedians have performed and art centers so I'm sure you've won over a few non-Anthrax fans.
I wish I could say yes, but not really. If there are people coming to my shows that don't know who I am or don't know who Anthrax is then I haven't met them yet (laughs). I think the only people taking a chance on me so far and willing to spend $20 to get in to see a show and take those risks are people that are already familiar with who I am and what I do. It's not like Sarah Silverman's audience is coming out to see me because they heard I told funny stories. At least it hasn't gotten to that point yet.
The only context I can put that in is that there have been a few people that have worked at some of the venues that I performed at, especially in the UK where I played a theaters, that had no idea who I was or what band I was in and told me they really enjoyed the show. They were going to look up my band after that because they wanted to hear more about my music.
Since you've played on so many stages over the years with large audiences, was getting in front of a bunch of people on your own really nerve wrecking? Public speaking can give people anxiety, especially when you have to entertain a live audience and you're not just giving a speech.
My expectations are very low. I don't expect to go out there and sell 1,000 tickets on that kind of level. I'm starting from scratch and from the bottom of the ladder. I certainly think the DVD coming out will help too because then there will be something to go to and say, 'Oh this is what it is.' All of these tours done already where based on me just showing up and doing it, people taking a risk and hopefully thinking I have something good to say. Otherwise, they might feel like they wasted a few hours of their life. They might have an understanding of what I'm doing and hopefully think it looks cool and come see it live.
The only nerves I had were before the first gig that I did in London. They were really based on the fact that I didn't know what the hell I was doing. It's not like in Anthrax where I know what is going on, no matter how much pressure we have on us or how big a show is. I still get nervous playing at Anthrax shows sometimes, especially playing at bigger cities because you get a real expectation that you just want it to be great.
I was about to walk on stage and not have a plan, I couldn't fall back onto something or four other dudes on stage with me and kind of feed off of. That scared me because there were 150 to 200 people in the crowd in London waiting for me to come out and entertain them and had an expectation that it was going to happen. The last thing I want to do is disappoint anybody.
I almost canceled the show the night before because I didn't know why I was putting myself through it. It's not like I needed to. It's not like I'm canceling an Anthrax show, I'd be canceling a Scott Ian speaking words show. Nobody even knew what that was; I didn't even know really what it is. It was my wife that talked me off the ledge and said, 'You have all the great stories in your head, and you can hit the bar with your friends and talk about these stories all night. That's really all you're going to do. You're going to be in a bar with a bunch of people and they're going to hear your stories.' That enabled me to show up the next day.
Man, what would you men do without us women in your life?
Exactly, tell me about it. I've been playing in Anthrax for over 30 years with thousands and thousands of shows under my belt. The experience of having done that certainly makes it easier for me to walk on stage. I've only done maybe 30 speaking words shows in the last two years and it's still so new to me. I have a much better idea of what my show is now and how to do my show and entertain people. I learned how to really read every last laugh and get all the energy out of a story and be in front of a crowd.
When you conduct the Q&A section of the show, what are some of the most typical questions that you get from the audience?
A lot of people want to know about Married with Children. Especially in the UK, there are a lot of fans that are younger than I am and are in their 20s and 30s. They aren't necessarily the first generation of fans that came up with us in the '80s. They probably saw the show years after it originally aired so maybe they never saw interviews about it when we initially did them in 1992. It's pretty outside the box not just for a metal band, but for any band. I have no problem talking about it because it's probably been one of the most fun things I've ever done in my life.
A lot of people want to know about Dimebag Darrell; people ask questions about Jeff Hanneman and guys that aren't here anymore. They know I had a relationship with these people and know that I was friends with them.
What was in the mystery pack anyway on the Married with Children episode?
If I remember correctly, it was some kind of jello mixed with whipped cream. I can't remember what they used to make it chunky, I want to say fruit. It did not taste good. Maybe they wanted it to be that way so it would help our reaction, I don't know.
I was surprised to find out that when Anthrax was just starting out in the 80s with the other thrash founders that you were the clean and sober guys.
I can only speak for myself. My personal explanation is because when I turned 18, I got really sick drinking screwdrivers at my birthday party, which happens to be on New Year's Eve (laughs). I was so sick for days so it kind of turned me off of booze for a long time, for years even. It just happened that it was the formative years of the band. It worked out good for me because I could have never been a functioning alcoholic or just a functioning raging partier like my friends were in a lot of the other bands. They were able to do that and do that where it just would have never worked for me.
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What special features will the DVD also include for fans?
There are two bonus stories that didn't make the actual edit. There is also a swearing super cut where my editor cut out every cuss word in the video, which happened to be one word after another. I guess it was because I was in Glasgow where people swear a lot so maybe it was a little contagious.
From my Pledge Music Campaign, I read through all of the names of the people that contributed. I filmed a video of myself thanking all of these people that helped. It's not so much a bonus scene, but just saying thanks to good people who paid for it. I think it will be exciting for them to hear their name shouted out on the DVD.
Over a span of a 30-year music career, you're going to have a lot to share with people. What made you want to put your autobiography and life details out for the entire world to read about?
I never thought about it that way. If my life made a good book and narrative and people would want to stay engaged, then I thought it would be a good idea. I had been asked to book for years and I always passed because I feel like everyone does a book. Also, I didn't pursue it in the past because I couldn't commit to the work. It was on the back of me doing these talking shows that I reconsidered it.
Tell me about your Halloween Rock Show Ozzy Osbourne interview. What was it like for you being on the interviewer's side.
Yeah when I was hosting Rock Show for the Halloween episode, I was a bald, goateed Gene Simmons. Ozzy had been in New York, N.Y. doing promotion work all day, starting on the Howard Stern show at 7:00 a.m. and then came to my show at 5:00 p.m., obviously tired. I was told that he was told it was me in makeup, and whether that is true or not, who knows.
He didn't remember when he got on set. He was just staring at me with this shit smell look like 'who is this asshole with Gene Simmons makeup on? I'm Ozzy Osbourne and I have to sit here and talk to this idiot for the next 10 minutes? I spent my whole career getting to this point?' He was not happy to be there.
It was bumming me out because I was friends with Ozzy and I was thinking 'did I piss him off at some point? Why is he so bummed on me?' Once it clicked and the facts came out then we started over and had a fun interview. I had a moment where I felt bad for anyone that has to interview him because he really made it uncomfortable (laughs). I never minded being on the interviewer's side because I knew everybody I was talking to. I never felt like I was interviewing anyone, it was just having a conversation with my friends. That was the only time I was ever sweating it.
Anthrax is performing at Knotfest this weekend, which is a festival that has been talked about a lot in the past few months. Too bad Corey can't do "Bring the Noise" with you, huh? What are your thoughts on the couple of songs that were released from their new album?
He's done it with us a bunch of times! (Laughs). I just don't know if Saturday at Knotfest will be the best place for it because we perform before Slipknot does. I'm not sure he'll want to reveal his face, so to speak, before he performs. I love doing "Bring the Noise" and I love it when Corey does it with us.
I'm an album guy and I like listening to an album from start to finish. I'll probably listen to their new album four or five times through. You'll hear new things every time. Just based on the new songs I heard, it's certainly more brutal than the last record and getting back to something from the first two albums, to me. I'm really excited to hear the whole thing. I can't wait.
Following Knotfest, does Anthrax have any more tour dates coming up? Will you be following with any more Speaking Words sets? Is the Mother Superior covers album still set to go for the near future?
We don't have any more tour dates coming up until next year. This is an official last show of the Worship Music cycle which started back in 2011. We've been writing for close to a year now and will be writing out here this weekend after Knotfest. We'll hopefully have a better idea of when we will actually start recording the new record. The focus has been on writing the new record for the past few months. We didn't want to add any more dates because it keeps postponing an album.
It's hard to say about Speaking Words sets because it all depends on my Anthrax schedule. I can't just book a tour and tell the band I'll be gone for a few weeks.
Yeah that's been done. We've just been working on artwork and Metal Blade Records is going to put that out next year. That's not necessarily my thing though; I'm just a guy playing guitar on that record. It's Jim Wilson's band and we changed the name to Motor Sister. That's something that will exist with or without me.
To pick up tickets for Knotfest this weekend to see Anthrax, Slipknot and 50 other bands perform, visit Ticketmaster. For more information on outlets to purchase Scott Ian's autobiography "I'm the Man: The Story of That Guy from Anthrax" and to pre-order the DVD "Swearing in Glasgow," visit his website.